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Eye On Boise

Deficiency warrants for anti-mussel program safe for now

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee gathers at a 7 a.m. workshop on Friday to go over motions it'll consider in its regular 8 a.m. budget-setting meeting. During the workshop, Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, said he'd agreed to withdraw proposed intent language to block the Department of Agriculture from drawing on unlimited deficiency warrants for the anti-quagga mussel invasive species program, at least for another year. (Betsy Russell)
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee gathers at a 7 a.m. workshop on Friday to go over motions it'll consider in its regular 8 a.m. budget-setting meeting. During the workshop, Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, said he'd agreed to withdraw proposed intent language to block the Department of Agriculture from drawing on unlimited deficiency warrants for the anti-quagga mussel invasive species program, at least for another year. (Betsy Russell)

Several JFAC members huddled after their meeting yesterday, and now the move to cut off deficiency warrants as a means to fund the invasive species program in the coming year is off the table. "We did come to a meeting of the minds," said Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, who had proposed the move. He said lawmakers still feel "that this probably isn't the best way to fund that group, but we can go forth for another year while they get together funding from private sources."

Last month, JFAC approved $280,100 in deficiency warrants for 2009 spending on the invasive species program, including check stations to look for quagga and zebra mussels entering the state on boats. So far in fiscal year 2010, the Department of Agriculture has drawn on $258,700 in deficiency warrants, which allow the program to tap directly into the general fund. However, those bills don't have to be paid until the next legislative session, and by then, Ag hopes to offset a substantial part of them with revenues from invasive sticker sales for boats.

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who opposed Patrick's move, said, "They recognized that we are in an emergency situation," where boats are coming to Idaho from states that already have the fast-reproducing invasive mussels. Keough said "we need one more year" to determine whether the sticker fees will be able to fund the program.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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